Criticism Essay: Example and Tips

Writing a criticism essay, and critical analysis in particular, involves interpreting or responding to a particular work, social phenomenon, musical, artistic or theatrical work. The goal of a criticism essay is purely academic, your response should not belittle the author or mock him. You, as the author of criticism, should give only reasonable arguments. It is important to understand the crucial difference between a criticism essay and a review. In fact, a criticism essay must combine scientific observations and refer to them correctly.

Step-by-step instruction of writing criticism essay:

  1. Writing a criticism essay begins with the choice of the topic, i.e. a particular work that you are going to cover. Make sure that you fully understand the topic and be aware of what you are going to write about. If you choose the topic yourself, prefer a well familiar to you work. If your teacher is the one who decides, get acquainted with it.
  2. Find reliable sources of information that can be referenced. You can use magazines, books, articles, notes and online materials of academic focus. Try to avoid popular and amateur sources.
  3. Your criticism of the work must contain an interrogative message. Cite exceptionally meaningful arguments. To do this, clearly articulate and understand your position for yourself and adhere to it when drawing up your criticism analysis.
  4. Writing a criticism essay, start with the main part. Even in the shortest essay, the main part consists of at least three paragraphs. Each paragraph is devoted to a particular problem or point of view and is supported by appropriate arguments. For each paragraph use the scheme: the thesis + arguments.
  5. Then write the conclusion, summing up all the above. Try to put in one or two sentences the main message of your response.
  6. The last part to write is an introduction to the essay. In the introduction, indicate your main thesis: introduce the work about which you will narrate and your main idea to the reader.
  7. Work on errors. Do not be lazy to read the finished criticism essay several times, correct all grammatical and stylistic errors. It is not superfluous to give someone your essay for reading.

Tips for writing a critical essay

  • Criticism essay should contain a detailed study of the text, appeal to its content and quality. Author must specify the type of work, its purpose and aim, and also determine whether the author was able to achieve the task. Justify or refute the thesis that the author managed to entertain, educate, instruct or inform his or her audience.
  • Place the main and minor theses in the main part of the analysis – it will be the core of all your work. Ideas and concepts mentioned in the introduction should get more attention and “processing” in this part, so that a whole and well-reasoned text is obtained.
  • Do not use rhetorical questions, as this is a rather weak and predictable element of conducting criticism. It is better to resort to quotes and statements of respected and authoritative personalities in the chosen topic.
  • Try to resort as often as possible to the technique of persuasion, especially in those moments when you talk about the excess or lack of quality in the analyzed work. Try to influence the emotions of readers, provide irrefutable facts and evidence. But remember that this kind of persuasion technique should not go beyond the bounds of logic.
  • Remember that criticism essay by its nature opposes the ideas and opinions of others. Therefore, your task is to analyze, doubt and offer an alternative attitude, point of view, idea.

Methods of criticism

One of the most common ways to implement critical analysis is the style of claims and evidence. So, you have to provide a number of claims in relation to the text or any other work that you are analyzing. These claims are then backed up with evidence found in other sources that are used as references.

Another effective way is a new information method. Here you must provide a fresh study, which has not been used to discuss the chosen topic.

The method of study and research will allow you to understand the smallest details, as well as to determine the reason and motivation for which the author created the work.

Should-do-list in criticism essay

  • Look for more than one source of supportive information for each of the above arguments. If this is possible and acceptable, be sure to quote the direct words of other authors, making the properly formatted reference.
  • Describe the selected text or other work of art in general. In such a way you can demonstrate that you have studied it to the smallest detail.
  • Try to make your analysis in such a way that there is no suspicion that this is a continuous stream of negative criticism. Point out the positive moments of author’s work.
  • The basic elements that prove the correctness of your point of view should be such units as logic, deduction and conclusion.
  • Do not forget about the reverse point of view, so try to approach the case from different sides.
  • Try to correctly interpret information taken from other sources. Do not distort its meaning in any way – it’s just not ethical.
  • Openly accept the presence of the opposite point of view, thus you prove your high level of knowledge about the subject of the discussion.

Should-not-do-list in criticism essay

  • Do not make categorical statements without backing them up with relevant arguments, facts or statements.
  • Do not lose the thread of your reasoning.
  • Do not give new arguments in the conclusion of the paper.
  • Do not criticize a text or another work from a subjective point of view.
  • Avoid vulgarisms and other inappropriate varieties of speech. Adhere to the scientific style of the narrative.
  • Do not neglect the quality of your own speech and level of thoughts. The original idea, sharpened in the context of bad language, will not have the expected effect.

Common mistakes in writing criticism essay

  • Do not be too zealous to insist on your arguments and apply aggressive tactics. It is enough just to present your claims and evidence.
  • An effective criticism essay must appeal to the feelings of the reader, and not to all known facts.
  • Avoid conclusions that, to a large extent, are your subjective judgments.
  • Make sure that the language of your essay is the same as the style of the given arguments.
  • Use direct quotes from other sources. Make sure that all links are up to date.
  • Avoid excessive use of negative sentences and utterances. A critical response can be as positive as any other type of writing.
  • It is not enough just to give the facts and specific dates, it is necessary to fit them skillfully into the textual meaning of your work. Make a logical plan for your analysis and carefully follow it.

A skilled critical essay can be called only when its author can bring powerful arguments in an accessible language. Logic, reasoned position and research approach – this is the formula for the successful writing of criticism essay.

Examples of topics for criticism essay

  • Doping at the Olympic Games
  • The impact of computer games on children
  • Gender roles in modern society
  • Satire in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
  • The impact of technology on humanity
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Wonders of the Ancient World
  • Image of slave in To kill the mockingbird
  • Methods of controlling inflation
  • Problems and basics of drama in prose by E. Hemingway – example

Template of criticism essay. Problems and basics of drama in prose by E. Hemingway


The novel “A Farewell to Arms!”, written by Ernest Hemingway in 1929, relies on the writer’s personal experience. In this case, it is his military experience: the service in the Red Cross on the Italian-Austrian front, his severe wound and stay of in the Milan hospital, a stormy but only bitter and disappointing love for nurse Agnes von Kurowski. But in the novel “Farewell to Arms!” real biographical facts appear artistically transformed.

The protagonist is the lieutenant of the Italian army, the American Frederick Henry, an alter ego of Hemingway. “Farewell to Arms!” is a novel about a war in which the war is depicted cruelly and unadorned – with all its blood, mud, confusion, physical suffering and total fear of pain and death in the souls of people. The novel is full of terrible pictures of the devastation caused by the war, for example, the image of the destroyed forest and bridge, these images even more clearly than disasters among civilians, convey the meaninglessness of the war. But the war is not only blood and a destructive mess of battles, but also illnesses and the criminal caprice of the command (it is evident in the famous episode of the shooting by the Italian field gendarmerie of soldiers and officers of the own army).

Main body

The monstrous meaning of everything that happens in the war is concluded in the total devaluation of human life as such: “… cholera began to rain with the rains. But it was not allowed to spread, and in the army for all time, only seven thousand died from it.” Much larger and broader than direct combat actions, the novel shows the daily routine – redeployment, transportation of the wounded, waiting for the arrival of the regimental kitchen, the flow of refugees, the retreat of troops. The life of the front-line soldiers was reconstructed in detail: lunches in officers’ canteens, talk about war, women and alcohol, cynical jokes, visiting brothels, drinking and sucking the routine of war. It becomes obvious that for these people war, horror and death have become their life – God knows what else is the deadline for.

The very angle of view, under which Hemingway describes the war of the 20th century with its new forms of mass destruction, goes back to the famous description of the Battle of Waterloo in the prologue to Stendhal’s novel The Parma Cloister, to the battle scenes of War and Peace by Tolstoy. The social background of the events is almost not taken by Lieutenant Henry, but their official patriotic version evokes his strong rejection: “I am always embarrassed by the words “sacred,” “glorious,” “victims”…, I saw nothing sacred, and what was considered glorious, did not deserve the glory, and the victims are very much like the Chicago carnage, only the meat here just buried in the ground.” War appears in the novel as an existential horror of being. The life and death of people in war is a being cut off from the past, being changed, gloomy, doomed. “Farewell to Arms!” is, in addition to everything and above all, a romantic novel.

For the heroes – Lieutenant Henry, who had just escaped death by a miracle, and the English nurse Kathryn Barkley, who had lost the groom on the front (“he was torn to pieces”) – their love and constancy become the meaning of life, lost its meaning, a foothold in the shifted universe and the only refuge from the terrible reality around them: “We will not quarrel. – Do not need. Because you and I are only two against all the others in the world. If anything comes between us, we are lost, they will seize us.” After an episode with the field gendarmerie, when Henry manages to avoid being shot, he decides to “conclude a separate peace”: he “no longer has any obligations. If, after a fire in a shop, employees are shot… no one, of course, can expect that the employees will return as soon as the shop opens again. Henry reunites with Catherine, who is waiting for the child, and they take refuge in neutral Switzerland.

However, the alternative world constructed by the heroes for two, where there is no place for death and the bloody madness of war, turns out to be fragile and vulnerable: their child is born dead and Catherine herself dies of bleeding after childbirth. These deaths, which seem to have nothing to do with the war, are in the context of the novel and are endemic images of blood and death, closely connected with military episodes, they are proof that life is unreasonable, cruel and hostile to man, that any happiness is short-lived: “By death. You do not even know what it’s all about. Do not have time to find out. You are simply thrown into life, and they tell you the rules, and the first time you are caught unawares, they will kill you… Sooner or later they will kill you. In this you can be sure. Sit and wait and they will kill you.”

“Farewell to Arms!” is a very typical work for the post-war decade and, at the same time, a unique “Hemingway-styled” in terms of not only the problems, but also narrative techniques. This is lyrical prose, where the facts of reality are passed through the prism of the perception of a character very close to the author: it is no accident that the narrative is conducted from the first person, which gives the entirety of the credibility of direct evidence and causes the reader to feel emotionally involved. We unmistakably recognize the individual style of E. Hemingway – short locality, sometimes even lapidary phrases and simplicity of vocabulary, behind which the emotional richness and complexity of the work are hidden.

This style expresses a principled authorial position, which in the novel is expressed by the main character. There were many words that were already disgusting to listen to, and in the end only the names of the places retained their dignity. Some numbers also saved it, and some dates. … Abstract words, such “glory”, “feat”, “valor” or “shrine”, were obscene next to specific names of villages, … rivers, regiments numbers and dates. Innovation and Traditions. Mistrust of the wiped out words is the reason that E. Hemingway’s prose looks like an outwardly impartial report with a deep lyrical overtones.


Coming from the Hemingway’s literary mentor Gertrude Stein type of modernism, performing the so-called “telegraphic style”, involves a hard selection of vocabulary and thereby increasing the prices of a single word, getting rid of all the rests of rhetoric. Conrad H. takes the saturation of the plot with an external action, James – with the meaning of the point of vision and the image of the narrator and underlines the word, to save him from compromised, false meanings, to return the correspondence of words and things, words and phenomena. Subtext is the most characteristic aesthetic feature of the novel. It is created in a variety of ways. An important role in this case belongs to repeats. So, in the above dialogue of heroes, the obsessive repetition of the words “brave” and “dies” does not describe, but directly transfers their mental state. The main method for creating subtext is the leitmotif.

Especially powerful and central is the leitmotif of rain. The motive of rain, cold, stubbornly drumming on the roof or bare earth, gradually penetrates the reader’s soul and causes a sense of anxiety, the expectation of unhappiness. The rain gives way to pure, radiant snow only in idyllic Swiss episodes to again appear in the final of the novel: Catherine dies in the rain, and Frederic returns “to his hotel in the rain.” The shadows of the rain, falling rain streams paralleled in the context of the work with the falling and concealing characters in one of the “night” scenes with Catherine’s hair, behind which “it was as if in a tent or behind a waterfall”.